Chetan Narula previews the second Test between England and India in Mumbai, which gets underway tomorrow (23rd November). India lead the series 1-0 after a nine-wicket success in Ahmedabad.
Bookmakers bet365 make India 10/11 favourites for the match, the draw is 15/8 and England are 9/2 outsiders.
Preparation has been a much abused word during this England tour of India. During each of the five days of the first Test at Ahmedabad, the visitors talked about how they have prepped up for the subcontinent - how they had done everything they possibly could, in terms of practice and resources available, and that it was only a matter of time before their plans came good.
The problem for Alastair Cook is his own hundred. It showed amply that a little more application from his team-mates and there was perhaps not too much in the pitch for the Indian bowlers to force a win.
The turning point was England’s first innings collapse. It is now a case of conjecture of course, but given the struggles of Ravichandran Ashwin on days four and five, England could have escaped from the Sardar Patel Stadium with just a draw. Instead, the score line reads 1-0.
Mahendra Singh Dhoni point-blank asked for rank turners in the remaining three Tests. If you investigate his statements a little, he had asked for more bounce than the Motera pitch afforded.
The Indian spinners will of course make good use of it, but it will also bring the English attack into picture. Graeme Swann will definitely like some. Most of all, it will take the toss out of the equation, something that is vital for England going ahead in this series and for the contest to stay alive.
The pitch at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai looks a lot juicier. A couple of days prior it had a definitive tinge of green, but since then layers have come off as the toss gets closer. It is expected to be a traditional Wankhede wicket - clay brown, ample bounce and carry with seam having a little say in the morning.
Later in the day spinners will come to town. With the square also sporting practice wickets, expect the ball to get roughed up and reverse swing to make an impact in the Test.
For the hosts, it doesn’t really affect any of their plans. They are expected to name the same 11, though reports suggest that Umesh Yadav is all but ruled out due to a back injury. In his absence, there was speculation that Dhoni might opt for three spinners, bringing in Harbhajan Singh to exploit the extra bounce.The theory makes some sense for the Indians opened their bowling with spin in both innings of the first Test.
However, playing three tweakers would render a lot of stress on Zaheer Khan’s fitness and in a way jeopardise India’s bowling prowess should he break down in the middle of the Test. It has happened before, so this is not about jinxing him.
Practicality dictates that India go in with the same combination that played the first Test. It means that Ishant Sharma or Ashok Dinda will be included; the former with a better chance.
Bhajji not playing will also inspire Pragyan Ojha and Ashwin a tad more, since they were right on the money in Ahmedabad. It will reinvigorate their position as the prime spinners in the squad and such confidence means one less thing for the young bowlers to worry about.
With a little more aid expected from this track, they will get another optimum chance to pay back their captain’s - and selectors’ - faith.
England were maybe hoping for an injury to one of the Indian batsmen instead. It didn’t happen and no changes are expected therein. Therefore Cook needs to pick an attack that is capable of taking 20 wickets, and that ought to include two spinners at least.
The toss-up should be between Samit Patel and Tim Bresnan, now that Steve Finn has been ruled out. As per their net session, Patel batted for quite a bit. It is enough of hint that Bresnan hasn’t made the cut.
Also, there is the odd chance that Stuart Broad might not play since he missed practice on the eve of the Test, owing to a sore throat. If it turns out to be something serious, will England risk Stuart Meaker or even Graham Onions, the latter too having a hit?
At Wankhede, the new ball tends to do a little something, so it might play a bit on Cook’s mind if he is at all aware of this fact. It also brings into perspective what each of the English batsmen are thinking individually. If they get to bat first, it will be a different situation from what they encountered in the first Test. A sense of calm and composure might prevail.
On the other hand, if India bat first and put another massive total on the board, will the English batsmen be able to fight their demons, particularly ones fresh from the previous game? It will be a test of their temperament, and one not involving fire. It is a trial by spin and bounce.
For more analysis from Chetan, check out his podcasts with John Pennington reviewing the Ahmedabad game and looking ahead to this one by clicking here.
© Cricket World 2012
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